Democracy, Repression, and the Defense of Human Rights
by William Avilés and Leila Celis
In the 1990s Barry Gills, Joel Rocamora, and Richard Wilson (1993) directly challenged the democratic-transitions literature through critical assessments of the relatively young democracies in Latin America and the developing world. They introduced the model of “low-intensity democracy” as a more precise classification of the limits of democratic change in the developing world after the cold war. A low-intensity democracy is a largely procedural democracy that allows political opposition, greater individual freedoms, a reduced institutional role for the armed forces, and a more permeable environment for the investments of transnational capital. Greatly expanding on this idea, William Robinson (1996) posited that, given the instability that authoritarian regimes of the past had engendered in the populace, these elite democracies were essential to the global integration of these economies. Democratization movements seeking radical change beyond formal electoral competition were pushed aside by the more conservative leaders of antiauthoritarian movements. These leaders were financed and advised by U.S. foreign policy makers, who presented them as paragons of democracy in an emerging global capitalist age. They represented economic and political factions pursuing the integration of their respective economies into capitalist globalization and fully prepared to turn to state and para-state repression of groups that challenged the state outside of the formal democratic institutions.
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